Pioneers Ensure Children’s Education
The Lower Clarence Valley has much to be proud of in its pioneer history, not the least being the efforts of early settlers to ensure that their children received an education.
Families banded together to set up primitive schoolrooms in barns or invested their own money and labour to build one, with privately hired and not always competent tutors. In the days before sealed roads children might have to row a boat across the channel or ride a pony across swamps to reach school. There are stories of search parties being formed to find children lost in those swamps.
By the end of the 19th century there were seven one-teacher schools in and around Yamba. Attendance varied according to the weather, floods or shifts in population and few remain today.
Last year Yamba Public School celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the school at its current site, although the school was first established in the 1800s. However Palmers Island School had already been established and later this year will celebrate its 150th Anniversary.
Initially the school was set up in a barn on Reverend Garven’s property on Palmers Island; it became a government school when a new building was constructed on the riverbank in 1866. By 1876 enrolments had grown to 48 and another new school, Taloumbi, had been built on the Palmers Island with 55 pupils.
Palmers Island was clearly a flourishing community as a third school; Lower Palmers Island was set up in 1887. This school however had fluctuating fortunes, having to share a teacher with Micalo Island before closing in 1899. It opened intermittently over the subsequent years.
By 1920, Palmers Island School was the only school still open on the Island and by 1950; the school was under threat from riverbank erosion. It was recognised that both the school and teacher’s residence would be washed away in the next flood, so the buildings were moved to its present site on Yamba Road. People came from near and far to watch the move and many followed in procession.
Plans are well under way for Palmers Island to celebrate their 150th Anniversary. Check the Facebook page: Palmers Island Public School – Celebrating 150 years or contact the school on 6646 0114 for further details. The school and the museum would be interested in any school photographs that could be copied and displayed.